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Sherry Acevedo was born and raised in Plainfield Township along the Slate Belt. Her family home had an acre of land and Sherry was able to spend her time exploring it.
“I grew up in the outdoors. I learned how to fish starting at two or three years old; my father taught me along the Bushkill Creek.”
Her family also had an orchard in East Bangor that was an “all hands on deck” operation. That’s where Sherry learned about business operations, selling, delivering groceries, and even how to drive at age 10. But there was always something special about Jacobsburg Environmental Education Center.
“We love Jacobsburg, my family. We would have picnics down there. We’d take my aunt, uncle, cousins, grandparents, anybody that would come to visit. It was always a special treat to go down the Jacobsburg; to go into the stream and just explore, you know, all the different macroinvertebrates, but also the fish and hike on the trails. We would just be down there for hours.”
Sherry would go on to graduate from East Stroudsburg University with a Bachelor of Science in Recreation and Leisure Services Management with a concentration in outdoor recreation and military recreation.
“I was the first in the history of the department to go towards military recreation as an internship. There were six of us interns that were selected out of 55 applicants from across the country. We would intern at Fort Carson, Colorado and Colorado Springs. It was one of the best experiences in my life.”
In Colorado, Sherry would lead camping trips and canoeing trips and would go rock climbing and mountain biking.
As the internship progressed and ultimately finished, Sherry’s love for the environment only bolstered.
Sherry would work for a time at Picatinny Arsenal in Wharton, NJ. Her goal was to stay in the military system as a non-appropriated funds employee and work her way back out West. But then she met her husband. And then she was hired by Wildlands Conservancy as a full-time employee.
Sherry was hired by Wildlands, but she was working under a grant that was given by the Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor (DLNHC). Sherry was charged with the task to create the D&L Trail Tenders program, modeled off the Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s volunteer program.
“My duty was creating the program, establishing it, recruiting volunteers, training the volunteers and physically going out and actually working with the volunteers. I would meet with landowners to go over what projects and tasks they would do… We also developed incident reports and would do inspections.”
With Sherry’s assistance, the D&L Trail Tenders program (still under Wildlands Conservancy at the time) won an Excellence in Program award from the Pennsylvania Recreation and Parks Society. Soon after, the ownership of the D&L Trail Tenders program was officially transferred over to DLNHC, and along with it came Sherry as an addition to the DLNHC team.
She was then tasked with focusing on ecological and native plant restoration, expanding the D&L Trail Tenders program and refining the landowners’ portion of the program which is what evolved to the current D&L Trail Ownership Council.
“One of my most prized achievements, besides cleaning up the high lift locks in Lehigh Gorge State Park, was hand seeding the mountain at Lehigh Gap Nature Center. I did that with the juvenile probation department kids.”
In 2004, the Lehigh Valley Greenways Conservation Landscape program was created with the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) and Sherry’s position then shifted to become the Conservation Landscape’s first Initiative Manager, where she would be the local lead of the program for 10 years. With the assistance of DCNR, Sherry was able to help create a Mini-grant program that became the state standard for Conservation Landscapes.
With all things, there is an end. Sherry left DLNHC in 2014 to become the Executive Director of Stroud Region Open Space and Recreation Commission. The commission was an intergovernmental agreement with three municipalities and two school districts. Under this agreement, Sherry managed 26 parks, two pools, two skate parks, and a Stroud kids camp program.
She missed the Lehigh Valley though. More than just the location, she missed the comradery she felt with her colleagues, peers, and partners.
When a certain position opened, Sherry didn’t hesitate. In April of 2019, Sherry was hired as the Northampton County Parks & Recreation Conservation Coordinator.
In her position, she provides administration of the Northampton County Open Space Program, Livable Landscapes Grant Program, regional planning, and regional trail networks. She also facilitates the County’s acquisitions and easements, adding 250 acres of open space to the County Park and Conservation Area system so far in her tenure.
“I felt like I was home. I was so happy and I still am. I love it. I’m running the County Open Space program. I’m doing the grant distribution like I always loved. That’s one thing I truly, truly loved and missed because I . . . always provided technical assistance and I was missing it. I truly cherish that.”
Sherry has gone through a variety of experiences during her education and career. And one thing has stayed the same – Sherry always had a camera.
Her mother was an amateur photographer, so like the outdoors, Sherry grew up with it. Photography was a method she used not only to save memories, but also to explore her creativity and express her love for the beauty around her.
At Wildlands, Sherry met her first real mentor, Tom Gettings. He had been a professional photographer for the Rodale Institute and was still using film at the time. Light tables and magnifying glasses, slides and contact sheets – Sherry was able to work with materials she’d never had access to. As encouragement, he even bought Sherry her first professional camera.
Sherry’s next big step would be during her time at DLNHC. Elissa Garofalo, the late former Executive Director of DLNHC, had been the one to encourage Sherry to set up a facebook page – called Sherry Acevedo Nature Photography – for her photos.
Over the years, Sherry’s images would be used for her jobs. Promotional materials like power points, brochures, flyers, rack cards were just some of the locations Sherry’s photos could be found. The rest would be placed on Facebook or hard drives for safe keeping. Sherry hadn’t intended to do anything major with her pictures, she just loved the craft of it all.
In 2022, when Sherry was informed that she was a recipient of a Pennsylvania Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts grant to set up an exhibition at Nature Nurture Center, several doors and opportunities she had never considered were suddenly possible.
Sherry’s exhibition ran from September 10 through November 4, 2022. Since then, she has started her own woman-owned small business named Sherry Acevedo Nature Photography LLC. It’s mainly run through her Facebook page, but she’s happy knowing there are people out there that see value in her work – so much they want to decorate their bathrooms and even offices with her prints!
Sherry doesn’t see herself retiring any time soon. She loves her job and the people she works with, and there are projects that she wants to see completed.
“I would like to continue to oversee the open space program and our trail networks or regional networks, especially Greenway plans. I would love to see the completion of these projects. I would love to see the Bushkill, the Two Rivers Area Greenway, Two Rivers Area Trailway being fully connected from the Appalachian Trail in Wind Gap and Plainfield Township to the city of Easton at the confluence of the Bushkill Creek and the Delaware River. That to me is a huge legacy that that was one of the major projects that we were part of.”
Even though Sherry no longer works at DLNHC, she is still a friend of the organization, assisting as a volunteer and a partner to many of our projects and programs. There are plenty of things that can’t be covered in a single blog post, but Sherry has done amazing work protecting natural resources and outdoor recreation opportunities and continues to do so every day.
“Sherry truly has a lifetime of knowledge about conservation and outdoor recreation in the Lehigh Valley,” says Claire Sadler, DLNHC Executive Director and Sherry’s successor as DLNHC Conservation Coordinator in 2014 when she moved on in jobs. “Although we were never coworkers, I have worked with Sherry in trail summit planning and when I was on the Northampton County Open Space Advisory Board. Her passion for the region is evident and we’re lucky to have people like Sherry protecting and promoting the Corridor.”
This article was written as part of the DLNHC Faces of the Corridor campaign. If you know someone or group that you think should be featured, visit this page to learn how you can nominate them.